I fell upon the phrase “no is a complete sentence” by chance. Like a broken record, it got stuck on my mind. It even earned pride of place as a profile picture.
I now also know that “no is a complete sentence” is the title of a 1995 book by Megan LeBoutillier. Further, in 2012, 2018 and earlier this year, different columnists used the same wording as their column titles.
Significant numbers of life coaches agree that the word ‘no’ should be used more often. That way, they reason, it is possible to get more time; better manage commitments; avoid running on empty, and spend quality time with loved ones.
Shelly Tygielski wrote in January this year, that “saying ‘no’ often goes hand in hand with becoming aware of the times during the day when you’re acting on automatic pilot – reacting, instead of choosing. Saying yes to everything is patently false and causes people to curate their lives to perfection on social media.”
Tygielski concurs with the school of thought that says you should “stand up to people who volunteer you for tasks you’d rather not do.” It is not an easy thing to do. Richard Cytowic, for instance, highlights the fact that, “coming to the aid of another human being is wired into us and further reinforced through cultural upbringing.”
He argues that, “it is a tactical mistake to ever give a reason for declining. Any and all excuses will be countered by suggestions and alternatives to which you will be tempted to make half-hearted excuses…”
I find Cytowic’s advice challenging and strident. For example, he says it is possible to tell an aeroplane seatmate or taxi driver that “I’m sorry, but I planned to use this time to read, or sleep, or meditate.”
Is such a scenario possible? Umberto Eco, in How to Travel with a Salmon and Other Essays, seems to say it is not easy to ignore the taxi driver. He makes the following comical (yet true) description of “Italian taxi drivers (who) can be divided into three categories…
Those who express opinions throughout the course of the ride; those who are silent and communicate their misanthropy (antisocial behaviour) through their driving; and those who work off their tensions in pure narration, describing what happened to them with this or that fare… To the taxi driver these tales seem odd and surprising, and you would be wise to comment on them with frequent interjections on the order of ‘it’s a crazy world!”
Lisa Swain agrees that it is unwise to give in to requests that we later regret. She advises that the word ‘no’ should be used without a feeling of guilt. “Your professional and personal happiness will be negatively affected. Salespersons are taught to do what is called ‘overcoming objections.’ They are taught to turn around the reasons for the ‘no,’ to give the person no choice but to say ‘yes’.”
Regan Walsh observes that, “despite our best intentions, we often forget that doling out ‘yeses’ like a black-jacket dealer leads to confusion, anxiety and disappointment.”
Walsh says ‘no’ is a non-negotiable answer in instances where three or more of the following are threatened: family, work, money, personal growth, health and wellness, spirituality, community and the living environment.
I find apparent justification for this interest in the word ‘no’ in a book entitled Brain Rules. The author, John Medina, says “we have created high-stress office environments, even though a stressed brain is significantly less productive than a non-stressed brain.”
Elsewhere, Sharon Van Etten tells Thrive Global that, “most people are on their phones constantly. You’re tricking your body into thinking that everything’s an emergency, so that when you’re not looking at your phone, it’s like you’re misfiring. It creates this anxiety and this need to keep doing more, when really what your body needs is to relax and take it slower.”
2019-07-05 09:50:52 17 days ago